West End Park – Ashton under Lyne

This is a short history of a park, a short history of my family and me.

The movement of earth and people, a tale until now untold now told.

West End Park is a public park, opened in 1893. The site is bounded by Stockport Road, Manchester Road and William Lane. It was developed on land associated with St Peter’s Church.

St Peter’s was built between 1821 and 1824, and was designed by Francis Goodwin. A grant of £13,191 was given towards its construction by the Church Building Commission. The land for the church was given by the patronage of George 6th Earl of Stamford and Warrington, whose cousin, Revd Sir George Booth, had been Rector of Ashton from 1758 until 1797

The benevolent Victorian landowners thought it politic to provide parks for the working folk, fresh air, exercise and perambulation being preferable to the demon drink.

Friendship Old Street – now a solicitor’s office

The area around the park was a dense warren of housing and industry.

Britain from Above

The parks provided a welcome relief from the tarmac, brick and concrete – very, very few homes having had access to a garden.

During the 1930s local councillors simply can’t resist the charms of the rocking horse.

And a burst of colour in the summertime.

The West End was transformed in the 60’s, through slum clearance, the subsequent building of high rise and the introduction of light industry.

My Grandfather Samuel Jones lived in the area – at one time next door to George Formby Senior.

Later moving to nearby Hill Street.

There’s a plaque for George – there isn’t one for Sam.

During the Great Depression men were required to work for the Dole – Sam was required to dig out a sunken garden in the park – he was a collier by trade, a good man with a shovel, built for back breaking work on Ashton Moss.

David Vaughan

Sam in Blackpool 1954

This is the sunken garden in the 1960s

Thirty yards wide, forty yards long and three yards deep, shifted by hand.

Three thousand six hundred cubic yards of earth.

One cubic yard of topsoil weighs about two thousand pounds on average.

Seven million two hundred thousand pounds of earth.

I worked there in the 1970s along with Alec and Danny bedding out the sunken garden, maintaining the bowling green, tennis courts and playground.

Keith Ingham

There were two permanent gardeners in the park, and a keeper in the summer – plus Danny Byrne and me brought in to help at busy times.

Throughout the 70s and onwards, economic decline hit the area hard, the closure of the cotton mills and little hope for the future. Rising unemployment and severe cuts to public spending did little to assure a rosy future for West End Park, or anything or anyone else for that matter.

Help was at hand – one of many public projects funded by our old friends the EU. Changes in the way that parks were used and further spending cuts sounded the death knell for the flowers and bowling. Large open grassed areas were cheaper and easier to maintain.

And so the sunken garden was filled in, this time by mechanical means – all in a days work for a bloke with a JCB.

So I sit and reflect on the labour and conditions that created this and many of our public parks, our legacy is a much impoverished version of the original vision.

I think of my grandad Sam and his comrades, the sweat of their collective brows buried forever.

Our legacy the small state, a bring and buy your own world economy.

It would make you weep.

Pomona – Manchester

The River Irwell bisects Salford and Manchester, joining the rivers Irk and Medlock, and then turns west toward Irlam, as part of the Manchester Ship Canal. Its course ends just east of Irlam, where it empties into the Mersey.

Urban development is ever so often dependent upon rivers – for sustenance, commerce and amusement. The Irwell and latterly the developments of the canal system has provided all of these in superabundance.

By 1870 the Pomona Gardens is thriving , boasting a concert hall and banqueting suite – further details here from Skyliner.

In the summer of 1887, a nearby chemicals factory exploded, damaging the palace – the area was under threat and destined to rot away to obscurity: the following year the gardens closed forever.

By 1900 the Ship Canal, docks and railways had arrived – Manchester and Salford are at the centre of an unprecedented growth in manufacture and trade.

1891
1923
1950

During the 1970’s the docks began a rapid decline, largely due to containerisation. The increasing size of freight-carrying ships meant they could no longer navigate the ship canal and this, combined with increased trading with Europe and the east, saw use of Manchester Docks decrease. In 1982 the remaining docks closed and the area became derelict. Recognising the need to redevelop the area, Salford City Council purchased the docks in 1984 using a derelict land grant. The Salford Quays Development Plan was adopted in May 1985, proposing complete reclamation and development of the area for commercial, residential and leisure use.

Wikipedia

Manchester and Salford begin the long haul from post industrial decline to service centred cities – there were even seeds sewn for the development of a luxury marina. When I first visited Pomona the area was seriously overgrown and the underground wiring stripped out.

2010
2010
2020

Remnant of the initial scheme – pedestrian access, balustrade and lighting.

What would poor old Pomona make of all this?

There was a failed attempt to prevent further development and return the area to nature. Peel Holdings prevailed and pressed on relentlessly with their programme of urbanisation.

I have posted concerning Pomona posts previously.

So it’s April 2020 – I’m on my way from somewhere else to somewhere else, I’ll cut across Pomona Island – the building site is in lockdown – ain’t nobody home.

Heaton Norris Park – Stockport

Heaton Norris Park’s elevated position gives stunning views of the Stockport town centre skyline and of the Cheshire plain. The central position of the Park means that it is a green retreat for shoppers and local residents. Also it is within easy reach of the Stockport town centre. The land for this park was acquired by public subscription and as a gift from Lord Egerton. Work on laying out the site as a public park began in May 1873, and it was formally opened on June 5th 1875. Since then it has undergone a number of changes. The construction of the M60 has shaved several acres off the park’s size.

The park began life as Drabble Ash Pleasure Gardens – entrance strictly by token only, as commemorated on the BHS Murals in Merseyway.

5 November 1905 – Edward VII declares his eldest daughter The Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, the Princess Royal.

He also orders that the daughters of Princess Louise, Lady Alexandra Duff and Lady Maud Duff are to be styled as Princesses of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with the style Highness.

So they built a big bonfire on bonfire night at Heaton Norris Park – sometimes they still do.

Picture courtesy of ©Phil Rowbotham

In 1935 the area seems to be little more than windswept cinders and thin forlorn grass, traversed by broad uneven paths – overlooking the dark industrial mire below.

Into the 1960s and although now there is the provision of a children’s play area, the park is still in need of a little more care and attention, the immediate surroundings a dense dark warren of industrial activity and terraced housing.

In 1968 the construction of two twelve storey Stockport County Borough Council residential blocks begins, alongside the recreation grounds, Heaton and Norris Towers, creating 136 new homes.

The 1970s sees the banked gardens bedded out with summer flowers and a crazy golf course on the edge of the bowling area. Both of these features are now a thing of the past, the future financing, care and maintenance of our parks is always precarious, especially during times of central government funding cuts and enforced austerity.

© John Davies

The park now has a Friends group to support it, along with I Love Heaton Norris. The area is cared for and used by all ages and interests children’s play, bowls, tennis, conservation area, football, picnic and floral areas – somewhere and something to be very proud of, social spaces for sociable people.

And much beloved of Natalie Bradbury the SS Norris concrete boat.

Take a walk over the concrete bridge or along Love Lane and treat yourself to a day in the park

Archive photographs Stockport Local Image Archive

All Saints – Grosvenor Square Manchester

Once upon a time there was almost nothing, as there often is.

Green fields, sylvan glades and a pleasant park in Grosvenor Square.

1813

Then all of a sudden, at the heart of the Square sat All Saints Church.

Underneath Manchester’s All Saints Park is a hidden history – an estimated 16,000 bodies. For this was the site of a former Victorian Cemetery, set up to cater for the parishioners of All Saints.

webmedia-10.php

All Saints Burial Ground officially opened on Wednesday 19 April 1820. The first interment was that of twenty-one-year-old Fanny Knowles, who lived on London Road. Her funeral was conducted by the founder himself, Charles Burton. It would be another month before the next interment took place. In the first year burials were slow with only 55 interments, however, by 1851 the number had increased to over 600 per annum. 

Michala Hulme

webmedia-9.php

Bombed in the Blitz the damaged structure was demolished – and a play area established which lasted until the 1980s

MMU Visual Resources 

The whole area having been a centre of housing, education, entertainment, commerce, public services and worship, was becoming the fiefdom of first the Polytechnic and subsequently the Manchester Metropolitan University.

But formerly there were peoples’ homes here.

Then the 1960s saw a huge programme of slum clearance in Manchester and whole communities across the Square and nearby Hulme were moved, rehoused in a thoroughly modern milieu.

webmedia-3.php copy

webmedia-1.php copy

hulme-redevelopment-mid-1960s-c-mmu

Shops came and went.

webmedia-1.php

webmedia-6.php

Paulden’s magnificent store was destroyed by fire in 1957

webmedia-4.php

Rightons haberdashers has survived though no longer haberdashing, having been amalgamated into MMU.

One day On The Eight day moved a little to the left

webmedia-3.php

The Manchester Municipal School of Art was built in Cavendish Street in 1880–81 to the designs of G.T.Redmayne.

webmedia-7.php

The fascia has been retained but the name has not been changed to protect the innocent.

Next door the Chorlton on Medlock town hall still has its portico in place, the adjacent Adult Education building has been surgically removed.

webmedia-10.php

Richard Lane, the architect of the Friend’s Meeting House on Mount Street, designed the Chorlton-on-Medlock Town Hall on Grosvenor Street.  It continued in  that role from 1831 until 1838 when Chorlton-on-Medlock became part of the city of Manchester.  In the years that followed it was used by the local community for a variety of functions but the redevelopment of the area meant that the local population diminshed and the building became redundant.  In 1970, the interior was removed, a new structure added to the rear and it became part of the Polytechnic which became the Manchester Metropolitan University.

The Fifth Pan African Conference was held there between October 15th and 21st in 1945. Ninety delegates from across Africa, Europe and the Caribbean, attended the meeting and among the delegates were a number of men who went on to become political leaders in their countries including: Hastings Banda, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo and Jomo Kenyatta.

Manchester History

ormond 1972

Former Chorlton Poor Law Guardian’s HQ then Registry Office, now the Ormond Building of Metropolitan University – and at the far right edge St Augustine RC.

webmedia-3.php

webmedia-2.php

The Manchester Ear Hospital on Lower Ormond Street, shortly before being transferred to Manchester Royal Infirmary. Most of the building was demolished, but the facade retained as part of MMU’s Bellhouse Building.

To the right the Presbyterian Church.

webmedia.php

Cavendish Street School

Screenshot 2018-12-05 at 13.59.22

The memorial stone on the front of the school, laid on June 17th, 1908,  declared that it was the Forty Seventh Municipal School.  Strangely, it seems that it was called the Cavendish Street School despite the fact that it wasn’t on Cavendish Street.

Manchester History

It was subsequently utilised by the Polytechnic sculpture department – then demolished to make way for something else of an educational nature.

Some or all of our social and architectural history has been overwritten, lost or swept aside by the tide of history.

Though on a dark snowy night you can still make out the bright red corporation buses,  passing by in a dark cloud of diesel.

Room on top.

webmedia-5.php

Archive images Local Image Collection